|Mon Oct 20 2014 14:46:37|
eBay Board Member Resigns, But Questions Remain
By: Ina Steiner
Marc Andreessen has decided to resign from eBay's Board just over a week after a Bloomberg anchor asked if he should be kicked off. During an October 9th interview, Trish Regan asked Carl Icahn whether he believed Andreessen should be kicked off the eBay board.
Earlier this year, eBay shareholder Carl Icahn had accused Andreessen of breaching his fiduciary duties because eBay sold his company Andreessen Horowitz a stake in its Skype subsidiary.
Icahn also accused Andreessen of having a conflict of interest in gaining access to non-public information as an eBay board member while investing in and actively advising direct competitors of PayPal, including Boku (mobile payments platform), Coinbase (Bitcoin wallet), and Dwolla (online payments service).
eBay founder and chairman of the board Pierre Omidyar said Andreessen had recused himself from all deliberations throughout the board's process of divesting Skype, and Andreessen defended himself in this blog post.
Questions remain about whether competitors should be seated on company boards. Icahn's allegations about Andreessen and fellow eBay board member Scott Cook (founder and Chairman of Intuit) conjure up an image of foxes in the henhouse. It does raise the question of which master a director serves. In Andreessen's case, eBay paid him to help oversee the company; at the same time, Andreessen's firm was investing its money in eBay competitors and, presumably, advising them (in addition to funding, that's the value a Venture Capital firm provides).
Whether or not Andreessen was able to separate his role as eBay overseer from his role as venture capitalist, it's hard to deny the appearance of the possibility of conflicts of interest - and isn't that enough for a board to be concerned?
Icahn told Regan he suspected Andreessen had wanted a repeat of the Skype deal, only with PayPal this time.
One thing is clear - Andreessen's resignation today clears the decks for his company to participate in an acquisition of PayPal after the planned breakup next year, and since he can't "unknow" what he knows about PayPal, that would give him a significant advantage over other bidders.